A typical young man would celebrate his 21st birthday with a night out on the town.
Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez is hoping for a different kind of party — on the field at the Cotton Bowl after a win against rival Texas.
“A loss would obviously hurt, but a win would the icing on top of the cake,” said Sanchez, a former Keller Central standout who turns 21 Saturday. “It’s going to make it that much more exciting.”
No. 11 Oklahoma (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) is coming off an upset loss last weekend at TCU, a defeat that motivated Sanchez to work hard during his birthday week.
“These past two weeks, I think I got back to last year and not being sound on my technique and things like that,” Sanchez said. “I’ve just been focused on getting back to being a technician, playing my game, keeping my eyes in the right place, and being able to make plays for the defense again.”
Sanchez has started his sophomore season strong, with 17 tackles (13 solo), four interceptions, a pass breakup, and a 2-point score off a blocked extra-point attempt against TCU last week.
“It’s just having awareness on the field, having good instincts on the ball,” Sanchez said. “When the ball is in the air, obviously I want to go get it and be the one who comes down with it. It think that comes from my background being an offensive player and being able to read the ball in the air.”
At Keller Central, Sanchez starred as a wide receiver/defensive back and led the Chargers to their first playoff appearance. After redshirting a year at Oklahoma, Sanchez made an impact as a freshman in 2013, starting all 13 games with 46 total tackles, two interceptions and 13 pass breakups, leading to freshman all-American honors.
That success wasn’t enough. Sanchez has worked hard to keep improving.
“No. 1 is getting in the playbook and in the film room more than I was last year and really studying teams and their favorite situations, what routes and plays they are going to run,” Sanchez said. “Playing my technique, my feet and my eyes, I have to stay on my man and not try to be too aggressive to make the play. Those things have been the best for me this year.”
Texas upset Oklahoma 36-20 in last year’s Red River Showdown. Sanchez hopes to help deliver a Sooners win this season in a game that will always be special to him.
“It’s like all eyes are on that game, and I think it’s arguably the biggest rivalry in the country,” said Sanchez, who has family members and friends who are Texas fans. “Who’s going to come out and be dominant? It’s a lot of fun and a lot of excitement. It’s something you can’t really explain unless you are there playing in it.”